TV

The 20 best kids’ TV shows of the ’90s, according to IMDb

Posted by
Tom Victor
Published
dexter-pinky-brain-moomin

There’s nothing worse than looking back at the things you liked as a kid and realising they were absolute trash. 

Hopefully, then, you’re like us. By which I mean you have – and have always had – impeccable taste in television, going back to your days as a snotty little kid flicking on CBBC or CITV the second you walked (ran) through the front door without so much as stopping to wipe your feet.

We’ve gone back through all the shows that come under the vast banner of ‘90s kids’ TV and conducted some extensive research. We’ve plucked out the very best, the gold standard, the crème de la crème, the, er, highest rated on IMDb.

To qualify for this list, the shows in question needs to have run for two or more years on British TV during the decade. If you think we’ve missed anything that should be there, let us know.

kenan-and-kel

Kenan and Kel, the real MVPs of ‘90s kids TV (Rex Features)

20. How 2

All your telly faves and some guy called Gareth came together to make science cool. Well, not exactly cool. And not exactly science. But it veered on the edges of both of these things well enough to make for cracking after-school TV that got you learning things without even realising. Covert education. Sly shit.

IMDb Rating: 7.7

19. Hey Arnold!

The shows we remember most fondly are the ones that appealed to adults as well as kids, even if we didn’t know at the time. Consider it a sort of expensive watch, appreciating in value as the years go by, there for you to enjoy when you revisit it years later. Hey Arnold! was perfect for this, and was a lot weirder than most of us remember.

IMDb Rating: 7.7

18. The Riddlers

What fresh hell is this? It’s like someone watched a ‘Punch and Judy’ show and thought, “No, not nightmarish enough”. I have very little memory of this, presumably because I’ve consciously made an effort to block it out. People seem to remember it fondly, though, so let’s leave it at that.

IMDb Rating: 7.8

17. ZZZap!

Now we’re talking. Objectively the best original show on ITV (I don’t care what the rankings say), it was a travesty that they took this off the air. I spent years wistfully staring at my Beanos, and Dennis outright refused to come to life and be my mate. ZZZap! was there though. ZZZap! was a live-action comic. ZZZap! was my mate.

IMDb Rating: 7.8

16. Goosebumps

You read the Goosebumps books as a kid, and you probably even dipped into the choose-your-own-adventure series Give Yourself Goosebumps. In fact, it’s probably the only book you were excited to see in year 5 or 6. Or if you were me, until this morning, when I was informed: “Please read IMDb to glean the best rated ‘90s kids’ TV shows.” Somehow, the TV show went one better than even the books, beaming the stories into my head without actually having to do any reading.

IMDb Rating: 7.8

15. Fun House

The only show, to my knowledge, to have a theme tune with several lines that both rhyme and scan. I can’t stress enough how important that is. Also involved go-karts indoors, which is surely every kid’s dream until they actually ride go-karts indoors and realise they have to sit through a long safety video first, and then you have five minutes of go-karting, and then Little Tommy Jerbs’ mum has run onto the track and made everyone stop because he’s crapped himself after taking the first corner too fast. Go-karting sucks. Fun House rules.

IMDb Rating: 7.9

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14. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

That’s right, they might have been ninjas in America, but the turtles were nothing but heroic over here. Mainly because the UK bods in charge of kids’ telly decided the word ‘ninja’ was too violent for sensitive anglo-tots. Weirdly, a bunch of Renaissance painters named themselves after these fighting reptiles.

IMDb Rating: 7.9

13. Pinky and the Brain

A children’s cartoon about two lab mice stuck in a recursive loop where they are forced to do the same thing every single day. Fortunately for us, the idiot viewers, that same thing was take over the world, which was at least nominally entertaining. If they made a show about me doing the same thing I do every day, it would be… not appropriate subject material for a kiddies’ cartoon, so fair play to these mice.

IMDb Rating: 7.9

12. Kenan and Kel

When we weren’t watching turtles marketing Big Pizza on our impressionable minds, it was down to Kenan and Kel to push orange soda on us unsuspecting youngsters. A rare live-action inclusion among our diet of cartoons, but a worthy one nonetheless. Oh, and because I know you were worried, Kel didn’t die around 2006 when that rumour was going round – he’s alive and well, and currently stars in something called See Dick Run, in which a spurned lover puts a curse on him and he wakes up without a dick. 

IMDb Rating: 7.9

11. Animaniacs

Show me a man who didn’t get their entire geographical knowledge from Animaniacs and I’ll show you a liar. The cornerstone of an entire generation’s education – you could probably get away with not going to school and just watching this over and over. Well, not now, because it’s out of date, and Czechoslovakia doesn’t exist anymore, but still…

IMDb Rating: 7.9

10. Recess

The king of Saturday morning in-between-segments-of-Diggit television, Recess remains the greatest thing Disney has ever done and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. If you send me a comment that says “tom mate recess was fucking crap”, I will tear my shirt off and run full pelt into my computer screen to fight you. Also of note: TJ Dettweiler’s green jacket/red backwards cap combo lived on after the show’s run came to an end, in the form of ‘real life TJ’ (my nickname) Fred Durst.

IMDb Rating: 7.9

9. Dexter’s Laboratory

Fuck off Jimmy Neutron, this is the only boy genius you should care about. Why did he have a German accent, and his sister an American? Who cares! Why was he short and ginger, and his sister tall and blonde? Don’t know! Why- Shut up! 

IMDb Rating: 8.0

8. Rocko’s Modern Life

He’s… a baby kangaroo, I think? Some sort of marsupial, at least. The only thing that’s certain is most of the jokes went way over your head if you watched Rocko’s Modern Life as a kid, but the visual humour more than made up for that. Watch it again if you get the chance, though – you’ll probably, uh, notice more things.

IMDb Rating: 8.0

7. The Magic School Bus

School buses? The things that take you to school? Where you have to spend your weekdays learning? Shite. But a school bus… that’s magic? Which still takes you to places of learning, except by magic? This is good now. 

IMDb Rating: 8.0

6. Boy Meets World

The intro for Boy Meets World alone is a cross between WordArt and a pan-European yoghurt advert, which is obviously what makes it so endearing. What do you mean, “Give us more insight?” No.

IMDb Rating: 8.1

5. Round the Twist

Round the Twist might have begun in 1989, but its combination of short run and high quality meant pretty much every episode of the Aussie show’s first two seasons showed up on after-school TV during the ‘90s on multiple occasions. Look, It’s taken a long time to format this list, and I can’t just “remove it” because you think it “doesn’t technically count.” It’s ‘90s, OK.

IMDb Rating: 8.2

4. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

As with Goosebumps earlier on the list, scary shit is – objectively – great. Looking back now, it’s hard to tell how folks were allowed to market it to children: there were some genuinely disturbing storylines, including a kid doomed to spend the rest of his life trapped in a pinball machine. 

IMDb Rating: 8.3

3. The Animals of Farthing Wood

The show that made a younger version of you really care about animals. It was rolled out across Europe, too, with full voice casts for multiple countries – something that probably wouldn’t happen post-Brexit. Still happy you voted Leave? Well, are you?

IMDb Rating: 8.4

2. Moomin

Does anyone truly know what a Moomin is? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re lying. The beauty of Moomins is that we have no idea what they are, how they speak, and why they look like house-trained hippos, but damn do they get results. I can tell you with 100% certainty what ‘Snuffkin’ was though: a right wrong’un. 

IMDb Rating: 8.4

1. Knightmare

Ah, the big one. The mack daddy of kids’ TV shows. It’s basically a weirder Crystal Maze for kids, isn’t it? That was all it was. Crystal Maze might as well have taken the top spot here. The users of IMDb are idiots.

IMDb Rating: 8.4

(Images: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/The Moomins Characters/Rex Features)